The Diocese of Grand Rapids is standing by a priest who is refusing Holy Communion to a popular judge in the area because she is in a same-sex marriage.
Kent County District Court Judge Sara Smolenski told WOOD-TV that she was contacted on November 23 by Rev. Scott Nolan and informed that she could no longer come forward to receive the Eucharist during mass at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in East Grand Rapids.
“Why now and why me?” said Smolenski, who noted that she donated $7,000 to the parish for a building program. “How come all these other priests everywhere – good and decent, wonderful priests – they know me and they give me Communion?”
Smolenski was first elected to Michigan’s 63rd District Court in 1990 and was reelected for another six-year term in 2014 after running unopposed. Her current term expires in December 2020.
The Diocese of Grand Rapids released a statement on behalf of Bishop David John Walkowiak, who said that “subsequent media reports do not change the appropriateness” of Nolan’s action, which “the diocese supports.”
“We appreciate Judge Sara Smolenski’s service to the community. We are grateful for her past generosity. These facts are not at issue in this matter,” the diocese said.
The statement claims that “inclusion and acceptance have been a hallmark” of the Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, but these qualities presume “a respect on the part of individuals for the teachings and practice of the wider Catholic community.”
“No community of faith can sustain the public contradiction of its beliefs by its own members. This is especially so on matters as central to Catholic life as marriage, which the Church has always held, and continues to hold, as a sacred covenant between one man and one woman,” the statement continues, saying Nolan has dedicated his priesthood to “bringing people closer to Jesus Christ.”
“Part of his duty in pursuing that end is to teach the truth as taught by the Catholic Church, and to help it take root and grow in his parish. Mercy is essential to that process, but so are humility and conversion on the part of anyone seeking to live an authentically Catholic Christian life,” the diocese concluded.
Former Vice President Joe Biden was denied the Eucharist by a Catholic priest in South Carolina in October because of his public advocacy for abortion rights. The priest said “any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”
– – –
Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Rev. Scott Nolan” and “St. Stephen Parish” by St. Stephen Parish, and photo “Judge Sara Smolenski” is by Kent County, Michigan.